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Web 2.0 initiatives outlined for Federal agencies — Government 2.0 Taskforce report

by Annabelle Milosavljevic •
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The Government 2.0 Taskforce report has outlined the Federal Government’s agenda in promoting the online capabilities of Web 2.0, highlighting a number of ICT implications for Federal agencies as well as opportunities for ICT suppliers.

Entitled, “Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0,” the report calls for Federal agencies to utilise and promote Web 2.0 applications as core communication tools, examples of which include Facebook, Twitter, the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia and video-sharing site YouTube.

The report was compiled with the active contribution of the public through blogs and other Web 2.0 avenues.  Among a series of broad recommendations, it calls for a new online based communication culture for Federal agencies to interact with the public, providing individual public servants with; “Access to work tools like web-based email, collaborative work spaces and instant messaging…for collaboration particularly where collaborators are physically apart.

The first major implication for the Federal Government apparatus will be the establishment of a lead agency appointed from within one of the central portfolios — either within Finance and Deregulation or Prime Minister and Cabinet — to take responsibility for Government 2.0 policy.  The role will provide guidance, support and oversight to the Federal agencies.

The report highlights several obstacles Federal agencies will face with the implementation of the Web 2.0 based changes, posing as significant investment opportunities for ICT firms, namely:

  • Few public servants have work access to Web 2.0 applications like Twitter, Facebook, blogs and instant messaging;
  • Legitimate security reasons limit access to some Web 2.0 tools, such as web-mail, because it typically uses ‘encrypted tunnels’ which may necessitate expensive additional investment to secure against malware;
  • Some agencies do not have systematic data storage and retrieval capabilities.  According to the report; “…agencies often have no systematic knowledge of all the data they hold and to the extent that they do, they have not been required to make such knowledge available to the public in a register.;
  • There are concerns about the quality of the data within agencies, with the report stating that they must ensure the; “…quality of the information, its reliability and currency and how they will ensure that the public continue to receive high quality information and services.”; and
  • Because of the poor application of accessibility by some proprietary systems and the lack of development maturity in many third party systems, the use of Web 2.0 tools for Government 2.0 projects may present accessibility compliance difficulties.  The report states that; “this situation is made more difficult by the pace of technology change, tools may never be made accessible before being replaced by a host of new ones. As a result consultation projects may suffer major delays, initiatives may be abandoned or severely weakened in functionality.

Further opportunities for ICT investment were highlighted with regard to Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs.  API’s on Web 2.0 platforms effectively provide those who would extend the functionality of those platforms with pre-approvalto do so, publicly specifying the technical requirements of operating on the platform.  The report states that; “…developers who are independent of the platform owner are invited and enabled to build for the platform, which provides value for users and in so doing makes the platform more valuable, enabling developers to build a rich and growing menu of functionality on the platform.

The full Government 2.0 Taskforce report can be accessed here.

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